Re: Enabling rural cooperatives and producer organizations to thrive as sustainable business enterprises

John Rouse Italy

The case study mentioned by Lisa Kitinoja "Linking Smallholder Horticultural Farmers with Lucrative Export Markets" raises several other issues not yet touched in the discussions, namely:

1) governments and donors need to understand that the promotion of sustainable cooperative businesses is a long-term educational/training process that requires technical assistance over alonger period than the typicalm2-3 year development project allows. I would also add to this point the one raised earlier by Nishadi Somaratne that such assistance should be linked to the assisted cooperative's achievement certain well-defined business performance and self-sufficiency targets.

2) such assistance should primarily focus on trading to enhance member business skills, not just cooperative managers business skills and farmer members should be treated as "agri-business people" rather than just as farmers.

3) the primary aiims of the training should focus on increasing the profitability of the cooperative business, investing in business growth and increasing member benefits

4) another important lesson learned from the study is the usefulness of small informal group approaches in business skill training, especially in larger cooperatives where the gap between members and cooperative leaders is greatest.

5) evidence demonstrates that rural women are better savers and accumulators and often have better micro-business management skills than men. That being the case, the increased participation of women in cooperatives and at middle and higher levels of management should be encouraged.